Monday, 21 July 2008


I thought it only fair to bring you up to speed on our travels with a short blog update from Cyprus. Now, just to clarify, we are actually in Cyprus, the island in the Mediterranean and not Cypress, which is about an hour's drive from Ralston! At least one Canadian local got very confused when I suggested we would have a long journey to our holiday destination!

This week we are based at Jim's father house near Paphos, although for Saturday & Sunday night, we took two days out to stay in Limassol on the coast. BFBS Cyprus are based nearby and coincidentally had organised a boat trip on Saturday night to raise money for BFBS Big Salute, so we were only too happy to tag along for the evening! (see left)

In Limassol we stayed at the Poseidonia Hotel. We had assumed that with all the talk of the credit crunch in the UK, we would be able to walk the strip of hotels in Limassol and take our pick of empty rooms, but were very surprised to discover that almost all places were fully booked. Although the same cannot be said though for some of the more expensive beach front cocktail bars, which looked rather empty.

This week Jim and I have also had a chance to refresh our scuba diving skills. It's been about 5 years since either of us have dived and it was nice to get back in the water, even if standing around having a brief when it's 35c + you're wearing a wetsuit is not an experience I'm in a hurry to repeat!

On Thursday, we're off to the UK for two weeks. I think the weather might be a little different to here, but having grown rather used to dry heat in Canada, I think a break from the humidity here will be nice!

Sunday, 13 July 2008

Cowboy hats and banana pancakes

A final blog update before we head off to Europe for 3 weeks holiday. We'll be spending a week in Cyprus visiting Jim's father and a fortnight in the UK seeing family and friends.

Here in Southern Alberta, we are in the midst of rodeo season at the moment. The Calgary stampede concluded this weekend and Medicine Hat's own stampede starts the week after next.

With cowboy's everywhere you look, the traditional attire has crept into Ralston too, which is how we found ourselves this morning dining on our regular Sunday breakfast of banana pancakes and maple syrup whilst wearing cowboy hats! We blame our guests MaryAnne & Ed who arrived in them and started some competitive hat wearing!

Joking aside, we may look like clowns to our UK audience, but this really is how the locals dress in the summer and in some cases in the winter too!

In exchange for a traditional Canadian breakfast, MaryAnne also did a spot of renovation on our "issued" kitchen chairs. One of the more challenging aspects of life as an army wife is losing control of your choice of home and in some locations (like here) your choice of furniture too.

Although, most of what we have is pretty good, the kitchen chairs we were given were 20 years old and covered in a ghastly patterned velvet fabric. Technically we aren't supposed to alter our accommodation or the furniture, but MaryAnne has done a rather good job of bending the rules and covering over the old fabric on her own chairs, so I asked her if she'd do the same with ours. It's amazing what 20 minutes and 50 cents of fabric can do!

Wednesday, 9 July 2008

Just a dot in the middle of the prairie

I wanted to share these fantastic photos with you. My colleague Neil Carter has recently acquired his private pilot's license and last night he flew over Ralston and took some photos of the village.

If you click on them, you can see them full-size.

The photo on the left really puts into perspective just how isolated we are here in the middle of the prairie. There's pretty much nothing to the east of us.

In the first photo our house is on the far bottom right of the village. In the second photo (right) our house is the last one on the corner of the village with the grey roof. You can see a footpath running down the centre of our garden and our gazebo in the garden. If you enlarge it, you can even see the RV in our parking spot!

The trees which grow in abundance in the village, survive the bitter winters and arid summers only because they are watered by an underground irrigation system. The vegetation on the prairie is a mixture of grass, cacti and other semi-arid vegetation.

The third photo (left) is of the world's longest motorway - the Trans-Canada highway, which is about 3km from Ralston village and is our only route to the nearest city of Calgary and therefore forms part of our incredibly dull two and a half hour commute to Calgary airport.

It all looks rather desolate from the air, but fortunately we are less aware of our isolation on the ground!

To see more of Neil's photos, click here

Monday, 7 July 2008

Long weekend in Waterton

This weekend we took the RV up to Waterton National Park. Regular blog readers may remember our last visit at the beginning of May when we unexpectedly encountered sub zero temperatures and our last big snow dump of the year.

This time the 8 month long Waterton winter had retreated and we found a very different landscape to the one we had left only weeks before. The photos on the right were taken at the same spot on Red Rock Canyon. The one on the left was on May 9th, on the right is July 7th!

On this trip we hoped that the better weather might mean we had more luck with our first bear sighting, but despite following everyone's tips (different times of day, different locations) we were out of luck. Just to rub salt into the wound, some friends of ours who were also in Waterton this weekend, popped down the main road on Sunday afternoon on an unrelated errand run and saw a mother and her cub at the side of the road. So, perhaps we are just looking too hard?

On the plus side, the non-appearance of bears has helped me to put my fear of them in perspective!

When we first arrived I was convinced they were waiting behind every bush ready to jump out and that walking in the open countryside during summer was suicidal. I now see they are quite reclusive and try to avoid human contact. Nonetheless, if you click through to our friends Mark & Kirsty's blog, you'll see that they have had a couple of close encounters on the road trip they are on at the moment!

We also saw more of the Waterton deer, which are tame enough to be petted (and the tourists frequently do!) but they also have a rather dark side and are extremely aggressive towards dogs and have been known to attack and kill without provocation!

One bit of wildlife that didn't disappoint this trip were the bison! (see photo above) A few hundred years ago these beasts would have roamed across the prairie where we now live, but nowadays they are mostly confined to managed herds, like these ones in Waterton. They are rather nice as a lasagna ingredient too, we like to cook it for visitors, just to see their surprised expressions!

We also visited Cameron Lake, a 16km drive up a mountain. It is a smaller, much less spoiled version of the famous Lake Louise in Banff. The lake sits between two mountain ranges, one which brings weather from the Pacific, the other which brings weather from the Atlantic. They merge over the lake, often with unpredictable results. The weather seemed to change every 5 minutes while we were there!

In addition to our activities on Saturday and Sunday, I had Monday off work and Jim's squadron are in Waterton this week doing some team building exercises, so this morning I joined them for a spectacular two and a half hour western style trail ride across the countryside close to Waterton park.

It's really hard to capture in photos quite how impressive the scenery was, but I did have to pinch myself a few times and remind myself of all the Monday mornings when I commuted to London and sat in an office!

Tuesday, 1 July 2008

Happy Canada Day!

Although our Canadian posting is not without its trials (the never ending winter, the isolation!) there are times when it is pretty idyllic. Today was one of those days...

Canada celebrated its 141st birthday today and here in Ralston it was marked with a pancake breakfast held in the Canadian Base Commander's garden. I cycled over at 8am, (with my own little Canadian flag fluttering away on to my bike) filled up with pancakes, a cooked breakfast, tea and juice and copious maple syrup and then cycled back through the village for work at 9am.

The sun was out, the temperature was just right (28c not 38c!) and the mosquitoes were mysteriously absent. The Base Commander also lives in one of those photogenic North American houses which made a rather perfect backdrop for it all!